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  • Writer's pictureDany Goldraij

Surprising Facts About Drinking Tap Water In Latin America – Do You Dare To Try?

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Water pollution affects everyone, especially children. In many parts of the world, including Latin America, over half of the population lacks access to clean drinking water. This lack of access causes significant health problems and contributes to high rates of death among young children.

In addition, water pollution is a major contributor to the number one killer of children worldwide: pneumonia. Pneumonia kills nearly 1.5 million children each year, most of whom live in poor countries where there is no access to clean water.

Drink tap water in LATAM

The water pollution crisis in Latin America is a children's crisis and a public health crisis. As a result, it has become a key focus of the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is a ‘Silent Water Crisis'

The "silent water crisis" refers to the lack of attention given to the issue of water scarcity in Latin America. Although there are multiple causes behind the problem, one of the most important ones is the failure of governments to enforce environmental regulations and policies. This is because many countries do not have adequate laws regarding the protection of water resources and the enforcement of those laws.

This is especially true in Latin America where the majority of the population lacks access to clean drinking water. In addition, the continent faces serious threats to its freshwater supplies including deforestation and climate change. These factors make Latin America the second largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries with Safe and Unsafe Tap Water

Tap water around the world isn’t always safe. Some places don’t even filter out bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals. Others use chlorination methods that could harm people with certain medical conditions. To find out where you can safely drink the local water, we consulted the World Health Organization (WHO). They provide information about drinking water quality in over 150 countries worldwide.

The WHO recommends travelers check the tap water status in their destinations before heading off on vacation. You can access the information via the CDC Travelers’ Health Tool. This tool provides data on the safety of tap water in nearly 200 countries.

In addition to this, the WHO suggests that travelers stick to bottled water while traveling abroad. Bottled water is often safer than tap water because it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals like chlorine. Plus, it’s easier to transport and store than tap water.

The World Health Organization reports that travelers' diarrhea affects up to half of the people who travel abroad. While some cases are mild, others can be quite serious, including dehydration, blood loss, kidney failure, and death.

Even though many of us assume that the water we see coming out of the faucet every day is safe, there are plenty of places around the globe where the tap water isn't fit to drink.

In fact, according to the WHO, "more than 2 million people die each year due to diarrheal diseases." And while there are ways to protect yourself against getting sick, like staying hydrated and avoiding contaminated food and drinks, knowing what to look out for in the local water supply can help you minimize risk.

Is the water safe to drink in Costa Rica?

Drink tap water in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of my favorite places in the world. I live here part-time, and I love everything about it. However, like in many countries, there are areas where the water quality isn't always great. In fact, some parts of Costa Rica aren't recommended for tourists due to poor water quality. There are even parts of the country where people don't drink tap water.

There are several factors that affect water quality, including rainfall, soil composition, proximity to bodies of water, and even volcanic activity.

Is the water safe to drink in Guatemala?

Drink tap water in Guatemala

Water is not generally safe to drink out of the tap since there is no water treatment. We buy purified water while others have filters like those charcoal ones. I have drunk tap water and I've been fine, but I don't really recommend it. For foreign folks, it's best to avoid it as they could get sick.”

Is the water safe to drink in Honduras?

We don't recommend drinking tap water in Honduras. As with other countries in the region, most people buy bottled water or have some kind of filtration system. Big five-gallon containers are cheap and available all over Honduras.

Is the water safe to drink in El Salvador?

We would say no to El Salvador. Although if you're in San Salvador, the capital city, chances are the water coming out of your tap is okay to drink, although it can taste pretty chlorinated. Outside of the city, avoid drinking tap water.

Lots of people, though, use well water in El Salvador, accessing groundwater, and this should also be avoided. As you might not be sure where your water is coming from, you should stick with bottled water or a decent filtration system, as most Salvadorans do.

Is the water safe to drink in Nicaragua?

Drink tap water in Nicaragua

The overwhelming consensus on drinking tap water in Nicaragua is don't do it…

Looking at the ex-pat groups, most people avoid drinking tap water, although they do clean their teeth with it. As in Honduras, those five-gallon containers are cheap and easy to get.

Is the water safe to drink in Panama?

Drink tap water in Panama

Most of Panama has safe drinking water straight out of the tap, especially around Panama City and other urban areas. Water in Panama is well-treated and safe, although some ex-pats complain about the chlorine taste of Panama City water. Many get filtration systems just to deal with the taste.

Areas of Panama where it's not recommended to drink the tap water include Bocas del Toro, where most people either have cisterns and filters or rely on the tried and tested five-gallon deals we see all over the region. Avoid drinking tap water in the Darien and over in the Guna Yala Comarca.

Is the water safe to drink in Mexico?

Drink tap water in Mexico

Mexico is one popular tourist destination to cause concern. Drinking water in Mexico is a common cause of traveler's diarrhea. Stick to sealed bottled water instead.

Remember not to drink tap water or use the ice that's made from it.

Is the water safe to drink in Peru?

If you're going on an Incan exploration in Peru, make sure you take a water filter or water-purification tablet because the water isn't potable. If you're going on treks and camping, make sure the water is boiled and disinfected.

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